If practice makes perfect, why do we practice wrong?
Every talent requires practice in order to be mastered. It might take 10,000 hours to mastery by Malcolm Gladwell. We may also observe what talented musicians, artists, and sportsmen do. To enhance their talents and skills, they regularly practice.
We are aware that in order to become really skilled at something, we must continually try to improve our capacity to carry out the actions that result in the results we want.
It's the same thing with sales. We must keep working on our technique, learning new things, and honing our executional abilities.
Through many prospecting calls, outstanding deal discovery, and the creation and use of successful transaction strategies, we gain knowledge. By speaking with consumers frequently—whether by social media, email, phone, Zoom, or face-to-face interactions—we can learn how to conduct high-impact sales calls. We learn and become better at doing such tasks as we have more experience.
Thus, practice is essential to the growth of our skills.
However, there is a drawback to this. The idea of practice has two sides, like so many other concepts. When things go well, we develop and become better; when things go wrong, we get good at doing the wrong things.
It seems like a lot of the "practice" in selling involves practicing things that we are aware are unproductive. Much of it contributes to customer and prospect disengagement. Even if the effects of these actions generate the reverse of what we desire, the more we do them, the better we grow at performing them.
We are aware that in order to be successful, our ICP must target consumers. But not everyone can be our ICPs.
We are aware that we must be customer-focused, but far too frequently, we don't take the time to learn about the client and their problems. And when we speak with a potential client or consumer, we put our interests—not those of the client—first.
We create scripts and sequences that are goal-oriented rather than client interest-driven. Increasing the volume rather than rethinking or changing our methods is how we plan to improve the outcomes we obtain from them.
We keep doing more of what doesn't work in the hopes that if we do it enough, we may succeed.
Research report after research report shows declining results, including fewer people meeting quota (on a percentage basis), sharp declines in tenure, and declining customer experience, to the point where customers prefer every alternative to working with a salesperson despite having trouble making purchases.
Despite the outcomes we obtain, we somehow believe that the best approach to accomplish our objectives is to keep doing more of the same, seldom reviewing our practices to see if we may achieve better outcomes.
The sheer amount of CEOs who consider victory rates of less than 30% to be acceptable astounds me. They believe that "if we just chase more opportunities, we can make our numbers." Even "science" supports the claim that "I just need to double or triple the activity." Similar to this, we constantly doing more with our prospecting calls, emails, and social media outreach.
Perfecting a skill requires practice.
Unfortunately, we are becoming rather proficient at doing the wrong things. We need to reconsider this, maybe.
Afterword: Many thanks to Andy Paul for our interesting discussion.
Thanks to Dave Brock at Business 2 Community whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.